Cannes: It's Skinheads vs. Punks in the Hardcore 'Green Room'

'The Green Room'

After drawing raves in Cannes two years ago with Blue Ruin, Jeremy Saulnier returns with a "batshit crazy punk-rock horror thriller."

After Blue Ruin, Jeremy Saulnier’s second feature, was a critical hit in Cannes two years ago, the Brooklyn-based writer-director could have continued in the same vein. The revenge thriller earned Saulnier comparisons with Joel and Ethan Coen and John Carpenter, and seemed to set him up for a career as an art house darling.

For his follow-up, Green Room, which premieres in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight on May 17, Saulnier has instead decided “to bob and weave.” The result is a bloody siege movie in which a punk band, trapped in a green room at a club, has to fight off a gang of white power skinheads.

“I felt like after Blue Ruin I wanted to make something right away and to technically take it a step up but emotionally to take a step back,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “This film goes back to my roots — the crazy genre films of the ’80s. It’s a movie for my 19-year-old self. ... I see this as a batshit crazy punkrock horror thriller.”

The inspiration for Green Room comes from Saulnier’s previous life as a singer (“more a yeller, actually”) in a hardcore punk band in the 1990s. “I always thought the aesthetic is there for a movie and wondered, ‘How come I’ve never seen a siege movie in the green room of a punk rock band?’ It was the best idea I could imagine. And the skinhead thing was real. There were some at every concert.”

Blue Ruin was a pure indie movie — Saulnier used all his savings and a Kickstarter campaign to finance the film and cast his buddy, Macon Blair, in the lead. Green Room features a cast of recognizable names including Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots and Patrick Stewart. “Casting was a breeze,” says Saulnier. “I never imagined I could have people of this caliber in my film. But scheduling — and we did this as a union film — was a nightmare.” 

With the $5 million-plus budget stretched to the limit, there was no space for rehearsals. Joe Cole and Callum Turner, who play the drummer and singer, respectively, in the movie’s punk band, had zero musical experience. “Callum arrived at 11 p.m. the night before he had his big performance on camera. So there was no process involved. It was just, ‘Get in there and yell.’”

Cannes, at least, liked the result. The selection committee for Directors’ Fortnight called Saulnier back within hours of receiving the  film, telling him they wanted it. CAA has picked up domestic sales duties and Westend is handling foreign. But Saulnier isn’t counting on Green Room being a blowout hit. He’d be satisfied if it plays with the genre hard core.

“I want this film to be like a Repo Man,” he says. “I don’t give a shit what that film did at the box office. I just know that 20 to 30 years later, it is required viewing for genre fans.”

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